Taking your Yoga Love to the Next Level – The Low Down on Yoga Teacher Training
Welcome yoga enthusiasts and future yoga teachers.
If you have been experiencing a serious love affair with yoga to this day and been searching for how to bring this to the new level, then doing your 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training (YTT) might just be your answer.
Just take a moment to think about your favourite Yoga Teacher. Ok now with him/her in your mind consider what it is about that particular person that is so special amongst the million of other yoga teachers out there.
Is it the yoga style that you can’t get enough of? The sequence of asanas that your teacher brings you through leaving you feel invigorated to take on the world, yet relaxed in body and mind? The fluid cues that your teacher uses whereby with each motion you feel as if you are being led through a choreographed trance? How your teacher makes you look at yourself, not on the superficial level but deep within? The inspiring and beautiful words that your teacher setting the mood of the practice from start to finish? Or do you just admire the pure grace and tranquility that he/she exudes, creating a wonderful presence in the room keeping you rounded and coming back for more like an addict wanting its next fix?
I am not going to lie to you and say that all of these characteristics can be taught or that they hand these out like a small package at YTT. Everyone is naturally gifted in their own delivery and will find their own style no doubt. This comes innately from within, and you will all find your own voice. So we must all drop the ego and stop comparing ourselves to others. Rather work on our own technique as this will shine with authenticity on the mat and off the mat so that you have the opportunity to create a unique experience for your future students.
If you decide to complete an intensive YTT like I have just done, this requires nearly a month of dedication to the practice, to your inspiring teachers, to your fellow students, and most importantly to giving your body the self love and nourishmebt that it needs during this time.
So, if you are intrigued either for your own self practice; to expand your own knowledge of the deeper layers of yoga from the philosophy, to the anatomy, and the asanas; a sanctuary to explore yourself completely; or with the idea to one day share your wisdom onto others as a a future Yoga Teacher, then YTT may be the right decision for you.
Below I will give you the low down on my experience during the 200 Hr YTT at Sampoorna Yoga
So feel free to grab a cup of chai tea while you sit back and enjoy…
The start of my Yoga Journey: all the twists and turns
My relationship with yoga was not always one of love and dedication that it is today. On the contrary, I remember testing out a yoga class at my gym for the first time 4 years ago to try to mix things up. Instead of feeling elated and enlightened like evertyone promises at the end of a yoga class, I left with feelings of confusion, frustration and pain swearing that yoga was not for me.
A year passed and my initial memories of my first yoga session faded leaving me with curiosity to see if I would like yoga the second round. This second session was like a revelation…I was hooked to the feeling, a natural yoga high.
And this is how I believe it starts with most individuals. You get a taste of this yoga fix and you keep coming back for more and more.
I started with my basic yoga sessions at the gym once a week, increasing these to twice or three
times a week. Trying to get as many sessions in as I could during lunch breaks, morning classes, and evening classes whilst also participating in other fitness activities.
I quickly grew out of the beginner yoga sessions held at the gym and was on the hunt for a dedicated Yoga studio. First testing out a day pass, then moving onto an unlimited one month yoga pass…and soon I had purchased a 6 month yoga membership…I was devoted completely to the practice wanting to develop myself further.
My practice became stronger within a matter of weeks. I felt more at peace within, my body started to relax, my naturally optimistic persona was given a boost, my relationshiops improved, and I was as a whole more fulfilled and loving myself and life.
Truthfully, prior to last year I did not consider undertaking a Yoga Teacher Training course as I loved practicing for myself, but could not see myself teaching others (I guess this is where the fear of stepping into the unknown and being vulnerable takes over and sets an obstacle in your path). Rather, I prefered at that time of my life to indulge in various yoga and meditation retreats as my way of further developing my practice and trial out various yoga styles.
The YTT Seed is planted and takes hold
It was only last year, when I actually made my decision to backpack solo (blog found on my website) that I decided to undertake a YTT as yoga was becoming more and more a large part of my life. Not because I had overcome a traumatic experience or illness the help of yoga as it may have helped out many other people, but more because I felt at peace on my mat and also the lasting affect that it had once I stepped off my mat into my daily life. My mindset was changing which was postiviely affecting my energy and surroundings.
Once the seed was planted the hunt was on as I knew that I wanted to complete this at the start of my solo traveling. But the questions that needed to be answered and researched seemed endless and the choices out there seemed to be never ending.
During my research I looked at the various factors and compared them rigiously as all YTT are fairly similar. Although they still have the varying factors which then comes down to the individual on which YTT resonates with them. For me I looked at the below to make my decision before landing on Sampoorna Yoga:
- Country/Location within the country
- Date of the course
- What type of Yoga did I wish for my YTT to be based upon
- Stucture of the course including the practical side, pranayama and meditation, philosophy, anatomy, student teaching, adjustment and alignment, and posture clinic to learn more in depth of advanced poses
- Number of teachers and their specialities
- Cost of the course
- Number of days of the course
- Accomodation and food packages with the YTT
- Additional activities offered by the Yoga School
- Accrediting Association
- Presence in Social Media
- The turn around time of the school in responding back to my enquiries
As you can see that my research analysis of which school to attend was not taken lightly as I wanted to find a school that I felt comfortable with to spend the month and that I would benefit from as much as possible.
After searching and contacting approximately 15 schools in various countries around the world, Sampoorna Yoga was by far the winner. In August 2015 I locked in my spot to join their March 2016 class. I was filled with absolute joy when I made my decision and have not doubted my decision through the entire 26 days during the course or even now that I have finished and graduated as a certified Yoga Teacher.
Sampoorna Yoga Teacher Training
Before starting this course I did not build up my expectations that I would graduate being the best, new and hippest Yoga Teacher on the block.
I did however, go in with my main focus of wanting to deepen my own practice, to come out with more knowledge on the anatomy of yoga, the philosophy behind this ancient teaching, to be able to lead my own self practicegain a deeper understanding of myself, and also leave with with the tools and courage to teach a class proficiently.
I came out with all of these which were slowly developed over the course of the training.
Here is a breakdown of the different aspects of Sampoorna YTT:
The Yoga School and Facilities
My YTT took place at Sampoorna Yoga, located at Agonda Beach in Goa, India.
We had access to two main Yoga Shalas. One on ground level and the second located 150 steps above, slightly wearing you out and making you drip with sweat even before you started your practice, but the view from the top shala was beautiful making it worthwhile and the most serene view to practice to.
Inside the complex of Sampoorna were the cottages in which I stayed with my room mate. Very
comfortable and sizeable room with more then enough space for two, being equipped with 2 study desks and lounge chairs on our verandahs making it perfect to relax with a coconut to replenish or study at during our break times. It was so amazing to be located on site especially when we had 6:30am pranayama/meditation classes or just being able to duck into the rooms during break times giving the feeling of being in a nice community with all of your fellow yogis.
However, undeniably one of the favourite elements of Sampoorna’s location is the proximity to the beach…literally a minute walk away. This is where many of my fellow classmates spent their lunch times, after class time, and even weekends at to soak up the sun and take some ‘me’ time needed between our intense daily schedule.
Part of our intuition fee we were provided with a vegetarian (vegan and gluten free also provided) buffet breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks all created fresh and healthy ingredients.
Each day the kitchen boys would work from early in the morning to make our snack to be served at 7:30am before our ashtanga class. Then start working to prepare what my favourite meal was…buffet breakfast filled with delicious fresh fruit at 10am. Straight away the meal preparation for lunch to be served at 1pm would commence which was an arrangement of salad, soup, indian curry, rice and chaapati. Another snack would be served at 5pm and the feast of dinner would be served at 7pm. This normally included salad, rice, chaapati, a few varieties of indian dishes, soup, and amazing vegan/gluten free desserts.
Safe to say none of us went hungry and we were able to keep our energy levels sustained all day long. However, majority of us realised second week in that we were over indulging slightly and had to cut down our portions as although the food was great…doing some of the twists can always be a bit more of a challenge with an extra layer of pudge.
The Surrounding areas and Outside Food
Agonda beach itself is a very relaxed area which is shown within the nature of the locals (my philosophy teacher named it ‘Indian Stretch Time’) and also the tourists themselves. There was no rushing around here and if you were in a rush then you would be told “Ah Shanti, Shanti”.
However, being in this atmosphere was quite refreshing as it was a break from our hectic schedule back in school and nice to wander the street of Agonda going in and out of the streets window shopping.
Agonda Beach was a great escape in between classes for a dip or just to sip on a fresh coconut. This was my favourite spot for a Sunday morning run being able to still wake up early with the day free to myself. Feeling absolutely liberated to have one day of my own and to start this with a different activity to replenish myself.
As Agonda Beach is a small area, being able to walk from one end to the other in 50 minutes, majority of us took either a tuk tuk or scooter to Palolem Beach, located only 10 minutes away. Although it was still quite similar with the relaxed indian attitude, it is slightly larger then Agonda offering more options and just a different change of scenery. The night life of Palolem for the weekend listening to live music playing onto the beach front, fed the soul, making you feel for that night out as if you were on vacation just swaying to the melodies. No immediates thoughts of studying or practicing yoga.
Although all the food provided at Sampoorna was great, clean and healthy it was wonderful to be able to dine out on Saturdays and Sundays.
I was one of the lucky ones that did not get ill during our time at Sampoorna, however, many of the girls either ended up with mild or severe food poisoning. Some lasting a week affecting their ability to practice and to concentrate in class.
Although at times it can be the luck of the draw even in a trusted restaurant. The ones that I dined at in Agonda were:
- Saxony’s – great cocktails
- Jojolapa – excellent salads
- Zac’s – great vegan shakes and juices
- Mandala – amazing chai tea and vegan shakes. The Coconut milk coffee was a favourite amongst many
- Cuba – loved the hummus and falafel platter
- Bom Bom – Vegan Ice Cream need I say more
- Dunhill – amazing salads and beautiful setting on the beach
- Simrose – great veg tikka and peaceful beach bungalows
Even though there were some great places in the immediate vicinity of Agonda, treat yourself with a trip to Palolem and test out:
- Zest – a vegan health foodies heaven. Unfortunately I only had time to test out the Raw Pad Thai
- The Space Goa – a cute health food store and cafe selling items such as spirulina and wheatgrass, whilst also catering for breakfast and lunch. I was able to try their cashew nut milked amarath porridge with fresh fruit
- Blue Planet – An excellent quiet place to study as it is located outside of Palolem in the jungle area. A must visit whereby I indulged for breakfast with their coconut milk shake with chocolate, banana and dates…and of course the vegan gluten free panacakes with mixed fruit and date cream. My study session carried onto lunch time with extra nourishment from the pan fried tofu, peanut sauce, avocado salasa, millet chaapati, and side salad
During my initial research of Sampoorna Yoga I was very excited to learn that we would have 5 main teachers and also exposure to 3 other teachers during our course.
I read the descriptions of each of the teachers. From their background, experience in yoga, and their understandings of yoga and the world. Each person was unique which attracted me even more. To be exposed to so many like minded people that would be able to offer to me something special in their own way, and therefore contribute to my own personal growth and knowledge.
All the teachers were so full of life, down to earth, inspiring, motivating, encouraging and supportive during our daily practices, the theory, giving us pep talks when our spirits were slightlly dampended from over working ourselves, and celebrated the highs with us from birthdays, our own personal achievements in our practices, and especially our graduation.
They provided us with guidance that we required and also became more like friends then the strict divide between student and teachers, as one of our teachers even commented that he had learnt from us, his students, to go further in his own knowledg and challenge himself.
That is the beauty of yoga, it is a continous journey and you will always be learning something new even when least expected.
As Sampoorna Yoga is quite a well known school naturally this was very popular resulting in a group of 50 people, which was split into 2 groups.
We had alternating schedules during the day, but all still mingled together at meal times which was nice being able to still talk and make friends with people from the other group.
It was incredibly enjoyable to meet people from so many parts of the world being able to connect over one similar interest. Despite a large number from our group coming from the same country such as England, Germany, and Sweden, everyone still had their individual stories of what brought them to yoga initially and to Samporna Yoga which I found fascinating to learn about.
To listen to peoples initial thoughts on what they wanted out of this YTT and to see how they
developed through the course physcially, mentally and emotionally was quite beautiful to watch.
To see the friendships bloomed as we all experienced something so special together and helped each other through the low times when our bodies were in pain and we didn’t want to practice any longer. To be surrounded by such a support network was astonishly inspiring as we all learned from one another and gave each other pep talks when needed.
On the last week, when it came to crunch time of the exams and when we each had to lead a class for 25 minutes this was most probably the time that friendships became stronger. Knowing that our time together was coming to an end. To see how each persons personality shined through during their presentation and the type of sequence they created gave you a glimpse of the type of teacher they would one day be.
The Structure of the Daily Schedule
Although the course of the structure is provided on the Sampoorna Yoga website I was not prepared for the packed schedule with classes from Monday to Friday full days, and Saturday half day.
The daily structure of the classes varied each week which was always exciting being able to try out a new type of yoga e.g, Yin Yoga, Restorative Yoga, Partner Yoga, Yoga Nidra, and Thai Yoga Massage.
The general structure:
6:30am to 7:30am: Pranayama and Meditation
7:30am to 8:00am: Snacks
8:00am to 10:00am: Led Ashtanga and Mysore Practice
10:00am to 11:00am: Breakfast
11:00am to 1:00pm: Either Philosophy or Anatomy
1:00pm to 3:00pm: Lunch
3:00pm to 5:00pm: Adjustment/ Alignment or Student Teaching
5:00pm to 6:00pm: Vinyasa Flow/ Other Yoga Class Or Student Teaching Class
6:00pm to 7:00pm: Break or Posutre Clinic
7:00pm: Dinner and every second day Sat Sang
The Practice and Student Teacher Training
Back at home in Sydney I was only able to practice yoga once or twice a week as I also enjoyed other activities such as running and weight training. Also, my preference over the past few years which I practiced eligiously was Hot Vinyasa Flow Classes with an occasional branch out to try something new every now and again.
Prior to arriving at Sampoorna I was traveling in Bali for a month whereby I was lucky enough to find great yoga studios, however, did not practice every day and tried out only one Ashtanga class.
So came the time for the start of the YTT practicing 2 hours of Ashtanga a day and every second day 1 hour of vinyasa class or other form of yoga. In addition, majority of our theory classes were also quite practical so that we could make the connection from the theory of the anatomy of yoga to the practical side.
I remember the second day of the course I woke feeling sore EVERYWHERE and never realised that Asthanga was such avigirious practice requiring incredible strength and compusure being able to hold each position for minimum of 5 breaths and having astounding number of chatarangas, upward facing dogs, and downward facing dogs leaving your shoulders feeling as if they will fall off and feeling in a constant sweat (the March humidity didn’t help).
However, in saying this, through just the first few days of practicing Ashtanga Yoga I appreciated this form of yoga. Very different to my normal style appreciating it’s dynamic strong sequence that takes a while to master but will build your endurance each day. This being coupled with a Vinyasa class every second day I could quickly see that my body was becoming more toned. Throughout the weeks I was able to notice that my flexibility and core strength was increasing, giving me a small feeling of satisfaction.
It was amazing to see that through practicing each day and also matching this with our theory classes learning about anatomy and adjustment how you became more aware of your own bodies and adjusting your own alignment within the poses. That towards the end majority of us either only adjusted others or were adjusted to deepen our practice rather then correct our alignment.
The great phenomenon about yoga is that even on the days when you were feeling exhausted before the class, once you started practicing again you would gain an extra boost of energy. That the course of endorphins were never in short supply, still creating that elated feeling similar to that experienced in the daily practice back at home.
During the second week the ‘Student Teaching Classes’ were introduced where we were slowly introduced into how to first speak in front of a group cueing them through a small sequences. At first only 2 poses, second was a short 10 minute flow provided by the school, the other was a flow where we had to add in our asanas, and the following ones were our own creation based on the teachers directions.
The method to build us up to the final exam of having to create an entire 25 minute themes sequence. This method used by our teachers on how to build our confidence and how to cue students through the poses was one very cleverly. During the first time of teaching another the 2 poses the student had to be blindfolded only following our instructions. The second time the teacher not being able to move or use hand guestures. The third with us demonstrating and cueing the poses. The fourth and following student teaching session involved us demonstrating, cueing the poses, and adjusting/aligning the students. And to think that during my yoga sessions back at home it all looked so easy and an absolute breeze for the teacher.
What excited and intrigued me about yoga when I practiced in the past and also when I decided to commence this YTT was the theory behind this practice.
The Anatomy of the body itself and how yoga has such a healing effect not only on the mind, but on the body. That yoga is not just used as a physical exercise, but can be used to correct your posture, detox the body, nd help you recover from injuries and illness.To then uncover how the physcial act also correlates with the positive effect on the mind, attitude, and spirit.
I personally have never studied anatomy before and was now thinking why did I not study at least biology in high school. However, I was not alone in this as many of my fellow classmates had very little or no knowledge of this either. This was not an issue as our anatomy teacher was wonderful explaining things in the simplest but most effective way for us to know at this stage in our education. To show us the practical examples in terms of our yoga poses and how one muscle group can affect another. Providing us with a solid foundation so that we could later identify which yoga poses work together and which ones to also utilise if we wanted to target a particular muscle. I can see myself taking on my own self study into the Antaomy of Yoga at a deeper level down the line as there is so much to learn which not only helps you with your own practice but also understanding your individual students.
During my yoga classes back at home I always loved listening to the small pearls of wisdom that my teachers would speak to us about the yogic lifestyle and philosophy. Setting the tone of the class and carrying this throughtout leaving me in yoga euphoric state. Just based on this and my own interest in philosophy and understanding the world more the Yoga Philosophy was ery thought-provoking and creates a beautiful outlook on life using yoga for its goal to reach samadhi, finding the truth within and our inner bliss.
The highs and the lows
Going into this course I did not know what to expect, I knew it would be intense but did not realise it would be as intense it was as I believed that we would have more free time and weekends free. But in reality this was one of the most intense but life changing experiences of my life as it was so comacted into such a small period of tinme and being surrounded by 49 other people feeling exactly the same as you. Seeing each of us going through the highs of our own self achievements, leanring new things, knowing that you made the choice for yourself to dedicate this time to yourself and no one else, coming to a new acceptance of yourself (the good, the bad and the ugly), and feeling high on life knowing that you are creating a change and will be able to bring this positive change to other peoples lives.
On the flip side, there were the days when I am many others were in incredible pain from over working our bodies as as far as I know no one else practiced as intensely back at home so our bodies were adjusting to the sudden change. As a result many people there feel sick with food poisoning (word of advice try to take probiotics during your travels and only eat in clean places when going ouitside Sampoorna).
As people were worn out many times this lead to injuries as our bodies were not given enough to recover and we pushed our bodies to the limit. The best advice is to know when to pull back for yourself and if you need to take a child pose then do so during the practice or skip that vinyasa flow as in the grand scheme skipping a few poses will protect your body from harm that may take months to recover.
In the second week the feeling of being overwhelmed with new information was starting to take over not thinking I could process anything more and the the student teaching assessments starting occuoying more of the free time.
By week three, I and pretty much everyonbe else was starting to look forward to the end of the course, not because it wasn’t a great course, but rather the stress was taking over and our bodies were so physically drained. However, although we all had this thought we stayed focused as we had worked so hard and kept in mind that this was all part of the journey and what doesn’t kill just makes you stronger. At this point having the one or two nights out with a cocktail or two in the hand always helped to keep the balance between work and play, which is important in any aspect of life.
By the fourth week we were counting down the days to our graduation with each day passing so quickly focusing on studying for exams that we could not even really think of how it would be once we did graduate and leave those that we had grown close to for the past month, the schedule that we abided by day in day out, the meals provided to us, the community feeling that was formed, and to go out as qualified Yoga Teachers was one of pure excitement but also a bit frightening. That what we had all worked so hard for was finally here and to now be in charge of determining our future and how we used our new knowledge and skills.
Each of us led a class of 10 through our 25 minute themed yoga sequence during the last week as part of our exam which was so enjoyable to discover the different styles and personalities that were portrayed. Although it was quite nerve wrecking this was an incredible and gratifying experience to be up there and having the students experience with you something that you had created with a particular intention. To see how your presence, words and cues could have a positive effect on them. In this moment I realised that I was much more confident then what I was going into YTT and a lot more aware of myself and others. That I enjoyed teaching others and making them laugh when I too made mistakes but not taking myself too seriously as life is too short for that.
The graduation and the lasting bliss
The last day of our YTT had finally arrived, however, graduation was not upon us until we completed both our written exam and alignment exam earlier in the day.
Once 1pm hit this was the mark that all the diligent work we did had now come to fruition and in a few hours we would be graduating. I was in a state of elation that was indescribable. To know that is time had been an incredible journey that I have had planned for such a long time and that this would benefit my future in various ways.
Th graduation was held at 4pm with a fire ceremony being conducted. The meaning behind the fire ceremony s to allow for transformation. To let go of the old story and drama, to to transform, to renew, and become reborn. We honor our old beliefs and lessons, whilst also letting go of the old patterns that don’t serve us anymore.
Following on from the fire ceremony we were presented with our Certificate to say we had completed our 200 Hour YTT and this in itself was a very special moment to really feel the piece of paper in my hand that verified this even though without this piece of paper all the knowledge that I had gained would not have disappeared or been any less relevant.
Taking the time to go down by the beach for photos and celebrations, looking at everyone dressed in white was very touching and to see how everyone looked so fresh, happy and revitalised.
Taking that moment to even look at how much I had grown through the past 4 weeks was astounding.It was all quite subtle instead of a great outburst and AH HA moment. Rather quiet realisations and acknowkedgements of myself becoming more patient for others and myself as although I did go in hoping to be able to do a headstand on my own by the time I left (yes the ego talking) I realised that there was more work and practice that I need to do order to achieve this, but not beating myself up for it but rather accepting it. To love every bit of my physical body and inner self more also by not worrying about the little things that do not cater to my inner happiness. With each practice and student teaching I became much more confident and self-assured about my own practice and my teaching style. All this leaving me feeling happier, healthier and balanced.
Now over to you future yoga teacher. This is your chance to ake the opportunity and answer the calling to start your magnificemt journey so that you can spread the yoga love to everyone, not just on the mat but off the mat contributing to the vibrational connection that brings us all together as one.